Rainmaker Spotlight: Tech Trailblazers’ Rose Ross on helping startups amplify thought leadership

Rose Ross

Rose RossTech Trailblazers is a disruptive concept in awards. It is designed explicitly for enterprise technology startups that are five years old or less and at C-series funding or below. The awards recognize startup innovation and proactively help startups grow their businesses with access to exclusive coaching, mentoring and development and prizes. We caught up with Rose Ross, the force behind the programme, to understand what sets these winners apart.

Why yet another technology awards program?
Because there is no level playing field for start-ups to compete against the tech titans. We felt there was sufficient momentum in the enterprise technology start-up community that it could sustain a set of awards that recognise the best across peer group. Remember start-ups do not have the same resources available to invest in competing on awards programs that pit them against companies with massive marketing teams. So we needed to give them a forum to compete with their startup counterparts within their technology space.

Is consumer tech so different from enterprise tech that a separate recognition programme is necessary?
Absolutely. The consumer tech startup space is well served with Crunchies and the like. We really want to showcase the innovation and startup activity in the enterprise technology space. There is so much original thinking and potentially disruptive technologies that just need a little more market exposure to really get momentum going. In the two years since we launched these awards we found the winners are really able to pull away and establish better growth trajectory. The awards span the nine categories of Big Data, Cloud, Emerging Markets, Mobile, Networking, Security, Storage, Sustainable IT and Virtualization. This allows shortlisted companies to demonstrate relevance in their specific areas.

You talked about market exposure. What exactly do the winners get?
This is an important distinction of the program we run. We have worked with partners to pull together a package that would complement a startups often under-resourced marketing team. Prizes include lead generation programs from media partners like Computing; access to events;  research from Gigaom; an online newsdesk for Mynewsdesk subscriptions and a host of other forms of practical support.

These are all sound like resources  for execution. How does the company’s  positioning evolve?
A practical set of execution initiative works with these companies because they already have strong leadership and messaging roadmaps. When you are that close to the creation of the technology or the solution you have a clear view of the problems it is trying to solve. And successful founders are articulate in getting their message across. It is in the area of amplifying those messages that additional resources are needed. So our prize package works very well for them. Aside from the formal package, mentoring from industry illuminaries and the chance to get a shot at presenting at Morgan Stanley’s CIO Summits is really compelling for any startup.

You attract nominations from around the world. Are companies comparable across geographies? 
There are two parts to this question. Yes, technology innovation is absolutely comparable regardless of where it was born. So in that respect we see our start-up applicants to be absolutely on a level playing field. However, companies that operate in smaller or emerging countries often have a naturally smaller addressable market, This can mean it takes them a little longer to establish growth. Having an emerging market category to specifically put a spotlight on startups from Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as Russia gives them another chance to shine.

What advice do you have for aspiring gurus out there?
Clearly the first thing to take away is that the size of your business operation doesn’t matter. The most successful thought leaders we have seen are those who are genuinely interested in their community and passionate about their customers and the solution they provide for pain points. We proved with Tech Trailblazers that ideas are capable of attracting a passionate following. Executing on these ideas creates loyal customers.

Follow Rose via @Rose_at_O. The 2014 Tech Trailblazers award program will open for nominations later in the Summer. More information via email from innovate@techtrailblazers.com and via @techtrailblaze

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